Blogs Around The World

Blogs Around The World

  • Amuria TLT - Stewardship

    My heart is full of joy and I'm only sharing with you a few of the great stories. I am so grateful for the privilege of being able to be in Uganda and have God use me here. This post is about my training last week in Amuria, which was the 2nd manual of Timothy Leadership Training called "Christian Stewardship" and is about managing our resources, giving in church, and being good stewards of God's creation, our time, work, bodies, and talents...

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  • A Conversation with a Journalist

    I am so excited about this upcoming message on the parable of a journalist. Four have agreed to help me with sermon research. Yesterday I sent out a few exegetical questions for each to engage. This morning I got my first response (from the TV producer). After reading her answer to my first question I was kind of taken aback. Already her journalistic heart was teaching me something new about God – something I hadn’t thought of before. Below is how the conversation played out – first, my initial question, then her answer and then my response to her answer...

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  • Gifting and Power for Ministry

    Have you ever asked these questions? Why am I not as gifted as ..?  Why can't I do ... when others can? Why does God not give me the right gifts to do ministry? Even as I write these sentences, I find them sad and short-sighted. Having walked with believers and ministry workers for decades, I believe that most of us secretly wish we had different gifts. We wish we could be like someone we look up to in ministry. We are painfully aware of our shortcomings. Deep within we believe that life and ministry would be different if we were just different...

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  • "Out of Africa" (iv) -- Stranger

    A young woman walks up. Even though the world is, I'm quite sure, entirely Islamic, she's not hiding her face, as I would have expected. There's no birqua. Islamic women are not supposed to be showy, I'm thinking, but this one is wound up in a gorgeous robe so profligate with color it's almost blinding. You can't look away. It's beautiful, as she is--young and pretty. She smiles at the men she's serving. It's clear she knows them...

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  • What Do You Mean By "The Gospel"

    Think beyond the success of a work project or the victory of your favorite sports team. There are bigger questions within the heart of every person. What is my purpose? Will I be ever be fully accepted and understood? I’ve made a mess of my life. Where do I go from here? If you believe in the existence of an active God in our universe, those questions get heavier. I have ignored him, lied to him, doubted him, and distrusted him. I know how I would respond if someone treated me like that. Is there a way I can live with God...

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  • Being a Disciple and Obedience

    I'm reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship again and every time I read his book, it gets me thinking. Some would say that's a good thing, some might say it's kind of scary, but here's what Bonhoeffer has me thinking about today. I'm struck again by his emphasis on obedience as a key part of being a disciple of Jesus. In fact, without obedience to God, there is no faith. This is striking a chord in me. Granted, the institutional church has gotten a bad name because of its focus on rules over grace and on believing the right doctrine over...

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  • Zuni's "Big House" Is Gone

    It is no more, but for a 100 years in Zuni there was only one “big house.” To say it loomed over the pueblo risks understatement. Even in its declining years nothing in town could rival its massive triangular bulk. It was not just one-of-a-kind, it was defiantly so, as if some miscreant Kansas tornado dropped it in the middle of town. The first buildings the Christian Reformed Church built at the Zuni pueblo were hardly spectacular, but the denomination hadn’t been in the mission business long. In fact, Rev.

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  • Reflections on Farming God's Way

    We talked about how each person has an impact on the environment through their actions. There was a lot of discussion on deforestation and the importance of planting trees, especially native trees. They also calculated the cost per month for using firewood, charcoal, or LPG (gas) for cooking for a family of four.  I was surprised to find out that using gas is actually the least expensive. And it does not cause respiratory issues. The challenge is...

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  • Missional Prayer

    In an age where we seemed focused on comfort, on what we want or think we need, all of which might be very good, Elijah’s prayer is quite different. Elijah doesn’t pray, “O YHWH, save me from this situation.” He also doesn’t pray “Please send fire and burn up this bull.” He also doesn’t pray “Please strike down these false prophets who are leading Israel astray.” I think that might have been reasonable as well. No, Elijah prays that...

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  • Always Remember!

    Mom suffered a stroke almost nine years ago that left her in a memory-loss unit for the duration. Much of that time she was able—and eager—to talk about things from her youth and childhood. If damage to her short-term memory prevented her from remembering what she had for lunch, well, frankly, that wasn’t all bad. Her left peripheral vision was shot too, but that, we joked, simply confirmed her congenital Republicanism... 

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  • At the Heart of World Renew's Calling

    What is really at the heart of World Renew’s calling to show compassion to the poor? I think that respect and striving to impact the root causes of poverty are two of the keys. First, we try to work respectfully across cultures, races, and religious ways of life. At the community level, two of the main ways that interpersonal respect manifests itself are in requiring self-reliance and in the amazing multiplication effect that self-reliance produces.

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  • Esther Eye

    Esther is about 13 years old and has a quiet, sweet nature with a great smile. The other day we noticed something was wrong with her eye. She said it was injured when grass got in it.  It took awhile to get the whole story but from what we gathered she got a piece of grass in it two years ago (!).  We all prayed for her and asked God to heal her eye. We also gave her sunglasses which she wears everywhere to protect her eye. Grace was crying that night for her friend Esther. It was on all of our hearts. We love Esther and did not want to see her lose her sight.

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  • Transitions

    I haven’t posted much here the last few months. A lot of transition has been happening. My family and I moved from Washington DC to Holland, Michigan in July. We were unable to continue our efforts of building community with Roots DC for a variety of factors, and it was a sad farewell. We had an amazing time in the almost two years we were there, and I’ve resisted writing about it because it is still something I am processing and a bit hard to put into words...

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  • Picking up Flowers for Fran

    I picked up a small flower arrangement for Fran, from one of the florists who’s been helping me with this Sunday’s sermon. Each of the times I’ve dropped into Anne’s shop this week, I’ve exegeted a different facet of her vocation back to her. It’s been quite profound for both of us. And I walk away even more convinced of the need for a good book on the spirituality of vocation. I asked her for a few floral maintenance tips. She pointed to one of the Frescias and ran her finger down the dark green, unopened blooms. “Every single one of these should bloom,” she said.

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  • Grace Saved Me

    Do you think of yourself as a sinner? What a strange concept for so many people today. We live in a time where everyone wins and everyone gets praised for normal everyday achievements. I don't normally watch shows like American Idol, but I did appreciate one of the judge's comments to a singer who was especially bad, "Hasn't anyone ever told you that you cannot sing?"...

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  • Religion in the Workplace

    While I find it troubling that someone was rejected for a job on the basis of her Christian faith, I’m almost more troubled by a quote from Ms. Paquette herself in which she claims, “My beliefs have developed who I am as an individual, but they don’t come into play when I am doing my job.” Really? I would hope the opposite is true – that one’s beliefs have a profound impact on one’s work...

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  • Casseroles and Cakes

    She had never been a religious person or very interested in talking about faith. And yet, when I asked her how she was coping, she answered, “I think I might join a church.” I tried to not to act surprised as I responded with something vague about it being a good place to consider questions of mortality and eternity. “No,” she said. “It’s not that.  It’s because I’ve always heard that church people bring casseroles and cakes when there’s trouble. And look in on widows.  Help them with leaf raking and other chores.

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  • Timothy Leadership Training in Kaberamaido

    On September 16th - 20th, I kicked off Timothy Leadership Training in Kaberamaido. At this first manual of TLT we had 67 pastors, leaders, and development staff at the training. We mostly met outside because of the great number of people. I did not go to lead this training alone. I took three people with me who have been going through TLT in Soroti. They are almost ready to graduate from the program. It was a real joy to lead with them and not do it on my own. And they were able to learn more about what it takes to lead and grow in their ability to facilitate TLT...

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  • 4 Spiritual Life Hacks

    Life Hacks are an interesting thing. They’re supposed to be new and improved ways for doing every day things to complicated DIY projects real easy and fast, in different ways than you’re used to. Now, this got me to thinking: Are there any spiritual life hacks? Is there anything out there that would make being spiritual easier?...

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  • Relics

    What I can't help but notice, almost daily, is that I'm running low on holy water. Truth is, this Protestant has never opened this elegant little bottle, never sprinkled its contents on anything, never tried out its holy potential. It stands atop my file now with a gaggle of other memorables, the blest water within dissipating to wherever sealed holy water goes when it disappears. Three years ago I bought this sweet keepsake--two euros...

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  • Story, Story!

    In the Nigerian context, storytelling is an ancient tradition passed on from generation to generation. In the past, communities would gather around campfires and tell stories. It would be a great form of entertainment, but also a way to pass on culture, tradition, and life lessons. The stories each of us are told are unique. Take the owl for example. As an African child, it is likely that they have been told stories of the presence of an owl being a sign of death and curses on a family or community. These stories have shaped the African worldview.

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  • Looking Back to Look Ahead

    In Joshua 4, Joshua commands the Israelites to build a stone monument beside the Jordan river to remind future generations of Israelites of the incredible saving acts of God in their history. Monuments to remind us of God's powerful acts in the past are important for a couple reasons. First of all, they say things about who God was, and by extension, who God is now. History gives us confidence to face the future...

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  • The Beauty of Election

    I have oft heard various objections to this articulation of the doctrine of election (the “U” in the dreaded TULIP).  Shouts of unfairness, capriciousness, randomness, and contradiction.  There is much that people have said, do say, and probably will continue to say, in their hostility towards this teaching.  And yet, despite all the jeers and pessimism, I find the Reformed perspective on the doctrine of election to be one of the most encouraging, comforting, and inspirational teachings we find in the pages of Scripture...

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  • Metaphorically Speaking

    One book we are looking at is a kind of mini-classic from just over 30 years ago: the Lakoff-Johnson volume Metaphors We Live By.  Most of the first chapters of this book bombard the reader with a nearly dizzying array of everyday speech that is substantially--and at times completely--structured by metaphors.

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  • A Choice Between Trust and Fear Is at the Heart of Almost Every Tension

    The pioneer of development psychology Erik Erickson spoke of “basic trust.” This is the confidence that a baby begins to have in its mother. The baby is trusting that the mother is reliably concerned and attentive even when not visibly present. Erickson says that all human beings are finally confronted with the options of trust and fear...

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  • Why I Believe Denominations Have a Future

    It is no secret that many denominations are struggling. Non-denominational churches continue to pop up on every corner, or so it seems, while mainline denominations struggle to raise enough money to pay the bills. Younger generations, in particular, show strikingly little loyalty to denominations. There was a time when one stayed for life in the denomination in which one was born, raised, and were baptized...

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  • Self-Construction

    In a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post, columnist Michael Gerson observes that Christian conservatives are finding themselves under increasing cultural stress. This stress is not only coming from outside, but also from inside, primarily from the millennials in their midst. “Whatever else traditional religious views may entail,” he writes, “they involve a belief that existence comes pre-defined. Purpose is discovered, not exerted.

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  • It All Depends On Your Point Of View

    Sharon and I love to watch Antiques Roadshow. Someone comes in with Granny’s old vase. They don’t really like it, but brought it in because their spouse LOVES it. The eyes of the appraiser go wide with delight at the sight of this dirty, slightly chipped  bit of clay. Then she announces, with pleasure, “I would put a conservative auction estimate of easily $15,000 on this piece.” Suddenly, there is a whole new level of appreciation for it...

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  • Where is Jesus When Life is Hard?

    "Blessed by the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues people under me." Ps 144: 1-2 "Count is all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1: 2-4 I love these two sets of truths from God's word!  Today, I hold to them and affirm that they are tr

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  • Stand Up, Speak Out, Sit Down, Be Quiet

    The other night, while flipping through the pages of Proverbs, I came across this passage in Proverbs 31: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9. I posted it on Facebook and asked for thoughts and responses. I had some good ones too...

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  • In Every Way, A New Person

    “Joining a self-help group through World Renew and AICT MUD has completely changed my life.” That’s how Lazaro Mwati from Ragata village in northern Tanzania began telling his story during a recent visit. Our joint program with the Africa Inland Church of Tanzania Mara/ Ukerewe Diocese (AICT MUD) is a five-year project which is funded by the Canadian government (DFATD) to empower rural Tanzanians to improve their...

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  • Mighty Deeds

    I was helping New City Kids Grand Rapids audition teens for jobs as tutors, recreation teachers, and performing arts teachers. A dozen of them will get hired here, and they will get mentoring and training and become leaders. And it will all happen in this old church that I love. Before the other night, I hadn’t been in the building for twenty-five years. The congregation of Alpine Avenue Christian Reformed Church sold the building around 1990...

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  • Can Films Help to Change the World?

    Can films help to change the world? This question was prompted by watching several films at the Toronto International Film Festival recently. These films were all in TIFF's Contemporary World Speakers series. All the films, as we discovered, were very powerful, even if not all of them could be classified as equally great. an films help to change the world? My response after seeing these five films is affirmative. Film is a compelling medium that rivals and may even exceed the written word in the influence it can have...

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  • Something broadly American

    Just in case you missed it, September 13, was the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." It's something of a miracle that the actual flag Francis Scott Key was waiting desperately to see in "the dawn's early light" is displayed today in the Smithsonian Museum. One star is missing because one of the relatives cut out one of the stars and sold it...

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  • Chosen by God: Election

    We live in a culture where we have so much choice in almost everything. We choose what to eat, a blessing so many people in the world don't have. We choose our school, our job (to a certain extent anyway), our church (lots of church hoppers and shoppers out there), our clothes (some make better choices than others my kids tell me), and how we spend our time among all our other choices.

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  • The Particularity of the Bible

    The notion that the individual books of the Bible are written with a degree of independence brings up an important point about understanding Scripture: the Bible is contextual and particular. That is, the Bible was written to a particular context that is not our own. Although Scripture points to the timeless truths of God, it does so using language and imagery that has meaning to and in a particular context...

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  • Amos and Justice

    There is more to justice than the question of salvation. It is, for instance, a quality of rulers (1 Kings 10:9), even though we today tend not to elect people on the basis of how just they are. Furthermore, it is an “attribute of God, a tool for peace, and it brings freedom” as one of the students said last week. It is something that changes lives, not just for the future but for now...

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  • Turning New Homes Over to Families in the Philippines

    I was blessed to be able to participate in the ceremonies to handover new, typhoon-and-earthquake-resistant houses to 38 families who had been living in makeshift shelters since Haiyan. What a blessing. Children stayed out of school for this special occasion, and it was a joy to see the shy smile on their faces. Older women were more expressive, with tears of big gratitude. World Renew is building 340 of these in the island of Panay and each is resistant to 200 km an hour winds...

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  • Water -- Too Much or Too Little

    During a very rough landing when arriving in Nicaragua in a rain storm I was the only passenger smiling, hoping that the farmers with whom we work would also be receiving this blessing. Moisture for the thirsty ground!  As we proceeded up the mountain the rain lessened but we spotted puddles along the roadside.  Unlike the 5 inches received in Managua, the area in which we live received only 1 ½ inches.  But we are thankful...

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  • Stress and Margin

    Richard Swenson has made a living preaching the values of Margin a person's life.  I believe he has written four books on the subject!  Margin is the space on the outside of the pages.  It is the area not written upon.  Swenson, who is a medical doctor, argues that giving 100% of our energy and resources is pure foolishness.  It is like writing on every square inch of a page!  Unfortunately, life without margin is the new normal...

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  • The Bible and Experience

    I begin here because this is a fundamental presupposition of my faith: our experience of faith and understanding of Scripture does not exist in a vacuum. Whenever we talk about God, Scripture, Jesus, etc. we stand on the shoulders of giants. Our modern understanding of faith has been molded and shaped by a conversation that has been happening in homes, churches, and the halls of academia for centuries.

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  • Rural Opportunity

    Recently, National Geographic magazine ran an article on hunger in America. One of the “faces of hunger” the article mentions is the working and rural poor. The article notes that this group of people is not the “face” most people tend to think of. What services can we provide to reach out in Christ’s love to those in need, a demographic that might be harder to identify in rural areas than in urban areas?...

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  • Helping Teachers, Helping Schools

    In Haiti, there are only enough government-supported schools to serve a small percentage of the ever increasing number of school-aged children (as there are about five births per woman, a large percentage of the Haitian population is children).  Haiti's Protestant evangelical churches are filling that void in primary and secondary school education...

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  • God's Love in the Apostles' Creed

    How many times have you said the Apostles Creed? Have you ever thought about what you’re actually saying? We believe in a deity who is a “Father” and “Almighty” despite all the pain and suffering in the world. We believe an uneducated carpenter who was allowed to be tortured to death on a cross is this God’s “only Son” and also our master today. The truths we mumble through and hardly reflect on are actually quite shocking...

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  • The Best Advice I Have Ever Received

    What is the best advice you have ever received? Was there a word of wisdom or an insight that helped shape your life? At the start of this new academic year at Calvin Seminary, I started to recall my markers of “best advice.” A favorite was brought to mind as I reminisced about marriage counseling...

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  • Food Security Projects in Olancho

    I am sitting in the World Renew and Diaconia Nacional office in Tegucigalpa reflecting on the past month that I've spent in Olancho. One project that Diaconia is involved in is the community and family gardening projects. This project provides farmers with the means to grow fruits and vegetables that they can use primarily to feed their own families. There is very much a culture of sharing here...

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  • The Process of Transformation

    Maybe I could go on a crash diet of cabbage, seaweed, and Alpo for ten days and it would all be better. Maybe I could just ask God to zap me and then I will wake up tomorrow at my goal. Yet, experience tells me that none of these "maybes" will work. Only daily faithfulness to a routine and following of my plan will increase my muscle tone and shrink my fat.  How much of our inner transformation is like going on a diet and exercise plan?...

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  • Red Rock Miracles

    The truth is, there was a school at Rehoboth mission only because the mission wasn't on the Navajo Reservation. It wasn't placed where there was already an Indian school, where the government gave missionaries lots of good time with kids anyway because the government believed that bringing Native people Christianity was a super good way to make them forget they were Indians and make them real Americans. It's no wonder that many Native people across the continent, even today, think of Christianity as the white man's religion. Even the government thought so...

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  • Making Disciples... Oft Repeated Dead Ends

    It sounds so easy and so obvious. Jesus did it. Paul did it. We should do it. But we don't. When was the last time you personally helped make and shape a disciple of Jesus? I think for many church folks, the answer would be telling. Why? We have misunderstood what it means to make a disciple. While we might think somewhere within us that making a disciple is following what Jesus does, we have been trained to believe that making a disciple means...

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  • New to New York? Church Shop. Then Settle.

    Whether you're an incoming freshman or moving to New York for work, the temptation is to spend the next year visiting different churches.  No doubt you'll check out Redeemer and Hillsong.  You might attend for a while, then realize you want something a little more manageable in terms of size.  So then you'll shop around, visiting other churches. You won't get plugged in anywhere because you'll never be at one place long enough to actually get to know people.  A year will go by, maybe two, and you'll realize you still don't have a church home. So let me give you a word of advice...

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